Shifting Your Marketing Efforts During COVID-19

As we watch the spread of COVID-19 run its course across the world, it brings with it shifts in consumer behavior quite uncommon to the normal scope of business. In a world where marketing and communications strategies are intrinsically grounded in consumer behavior, it can feel too risky to launch a campaign in an erratic consumer environment. However, as we watch governments struggle to provide for their citizens during this time, consumers and local governments need the support of businesses, big and small, to provide what they can - no effort is insignificant. And, inevitably, coming out on top as a hero to your consumers will always pay you back in the long run. So, how can your business get involved to provide relief without taking too big of a risk? Here’s a few ideas.

Consider What The People of Your Region Need Most

As COVID-19 slowly spreads across the globe, each region is being affected differently. China is already leveling off and recovering from the apex of the virus, European nations are hitting their apex while cases in the USA are just starting to ramp up with an apex predicted in 2-3 weeks. The people of each region will have different needs based on their government’s response time, financial support and medical resources. As you consider how best you can make a positive impact as a business, take your region’s trajectory into account and cater your efforts to it.

Make a Sizable Donation

If you find that programs that would have otherwise been relevant are falling through (ie OOH efforts, in person events, etc.) consider taking those funds and allocating them toward a donation to charities that need your support right now. The most relevant charities tend to differ based on geographic region, so look into which ones best align with your brand and focus there. Don’t just make the donation quietly. Focus on digital efforts or TV efforts that can bring attention to your donation. Perhaps it’s an influencer program where consumers can contribute to the donation by taking a social action, for example.

Support First Responders

Healthcare workers, grocers, law enforcement, delivery personnel, etc. are all on the front lines of helping your consumers fight the virus and subsequently helping the world return to business as usual. As we look to stabilize the physical and economic health of people across the world, it’s in everyone’s best interest to cater to first-responders so they can work most efficiently. If you have factory space, or raw materials that can be used to create PPE (personal protective equipment) such as masks, gloves, hand sanitizer or medical supplies such as ventilators, field hospitals, etc. now is the time to consider dedicating at least part of your resources to supplement your local government’s aid plans. Don’t have the resources to develop PPE? No problem. You can also adopt a first responder - companies are sprouting up that are providing lunches, grocery shopping, childcare, etc. for first responders who are working round the clock - make a donation to them!

Resources For Your Target Consumer

The benefit of having done such incredibly detailed studies around your target in the past, is that you know them in and out. Take the information you have about what matters most to them and consider how you could make that happen in light of the circumstances. If you don’t want to take guesses at what is most important to them right now, do your research. Interview a focus group of your target audience to learn more about what struggles they are facing. Read articles about the hurdles your target is looking to overcome. For example, if you are a brand that appeals to new parents, consider the heavy emotional burden on pregnant moms, new moms and their partners right now as hospitals make regulations eliminating support people/partners in labor/delivery rooms and the rights of women to go into labor naturally versus via scheduled induction or scheduled c-section to fit within hospital schedules. What can you do to help these women? Even if changing hospital policy is not within your wheelhouse, you can potentially provide a means for their partners to be with them virtually, or help build a labor/delivery field hospital to cater to these families.

Virtually Bring People Together

It is human nature to be connected to one another, which is why social distancing is so challenging for us. If you cannot help provide PPE, make a donation, or champion the rights of your consumers, consider providing relief from the emotional burden of distance among families, friends, and co-workers. Provide entertainment that can get people’s minds off the crisis impacting their everyday life. Consider adjusting your product to provide ways for people to virtually interact such as a widget that allows people to stream shows together while seeing each other at the same time. Offer virtual resources to your consumer community such as daily meditations, at-home workout classes, cooking tutorials, etc.

Make no mistake, all of these efforts will require investment with regard to time, financial resources, and manpower. However, the risk of being seen as tone deaf by launching a set-it-and-forget-it marketing approach is much more detrimental to your business over time.   Turn lemons into lemonade as you take a hiatus from your “business as usual” marketing/communications efforts, and focus those resources more heavily on deep relationship building with your consumer.

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